The Poll Bludger
Margin: Liberal 10.1%
Region: Eastern Adelaide, South Australia
In a nutshell: His current margin belies the fact, but Christopher Pyne’s eastern Adelaide was under serious threat from Labor in 2007 and 2010, and he now faces a strong challenge from the Nick Xenophon Team.
Candidates in ballot paper order
Christopher Pyne’s electorate of Sturt covers the inner eastern suburbs of Adelaide, including Payneham, Kensington, Tranmere and Skye east of the city, Klemzig, Campbelltown, Paradise and Highbury to the north, and Glenunga, Glen Osmond and Beaumont to the south. The southern end of the electorate is wealthy and largely white, while the north records modest incomes and boasts a large Italian community around Newton. It has been held by the Liberals since 1972, and by Pyne since 1993.
Sturt was created in 1949 and encompassed northern Adelaide until 1955, when it was ceded to the new electorate of Bonython (eventually to be abolished in 2004). Norman Makin won the seat for Labor in 1954 and moved to Bonython in 1955, Sturt having been rendered notionally Liberal. It has since been won by Labor only in 1969, when the state swung 11.8% and Sturt swung 15.0%. Coming off Labor’s success in 1969, South Australia bucked the national trend in swinging slightly to the Liberals in 1972, allowing Ian Wilson to recover the seat he had served from 1966 to his defeat in 1969.
Wilson retained the seat by margins of between 2.0% and 10.3% until 1993, when he was defeated for preselection by Christopher Pyne, a 25-year-old former staffer to Senator Amanda Vanstone. Pyne was already emerging as a powerbroker in the party’s moderate faction, and he only had to wait a year after entering parliament to win promotion to shadow parliamentary secretary. However, it was not until the Howard government’s final year in office that he attained ministerial rank, which was widely put down to his closeness to Peter Costello.
Pyne ran for the party’s deputy leadership after the November 2007 election defeat, finishing third with 18 votes behind Julie Bishop on 44 and Andrew Robb on 25. He served in high-profile positions on the opposition front bench over the next few years, first in justice and border protection under Brendan Nelson, then in education, apprenticeships and training under Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. In February 2009 he further gained the important role of manager of opposition business.
Pyne’s hold on Sturt came under serious threat at Labor’s electoral high-water mark in 2007 and 2010, his margin being cut on the former occasion from 6.8% to 0.9%. He did well on the latter to secure the seat with a swing of 2.5%, going against the trend of a statewide swing to Labor of 0.8%, and was safely re-elected with a further swing of 6.5% in 2013. With the election of the Abbott government in September 2013 he took on the role of Education Minister and Leader of the House. It was widely expected he would be given the defence portfolio after he publicly declared he had voted for Malcolm Turnbull in the September 2015 leadership challenge, but he instead took on the role of Industry, Innovation and Science Minister.
Sturt will be contested at the coming election for Labor by Matt Loader, a gay rights activist and manager at South Australia’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, and for the Nick Xenophon Team by Matthew Wright, an emergency physician at Flinders Medical Centre.
A poll conducted by ReachTEL for GetUp! on May 22, from a sample of 762, credited Christopher Pyne with 43.5% of the primary vote, compared with 22.5% for Nick Xenophon Team candidate Matthew Wright, 21.5% for Labor’s Matt Loader, and 9% for the Greens. If Wright was indeed able to stay ahead of Labor, this would give him a very strong chance of overhauling Pyne on their preferences.
Analysis by William Bowe. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.